KUALA LUMPUR, July 21 — Former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad believes Japan should discontinue hosting the 2020 Tokyo Olympics due to the high risks of spreading the coronavirus.

He said that although the Japanese government is very strict and careful, there is no guarantee that spectators and other visitors to the country would be “disciplined” enough to prevent Covid-19 from spreading.

“I know the Japanese are very careful, very strict and they are capable and if they have a situation in Malaysia, I think they can handle it

“But with people coming into the country like spectators and the spectators are not disciplined, they will break all rules, they will stay together and are likely to be infected.

“Although they have spent so much money to hold the 2020 Olympics, I think it is better if they don’t,” he told an online press conference today.

Dr Mahathir holds a high regard for Japan and had modelled his Look East policies based on the country when he was in power.

He praised the Japanese, saying they are customarily cautious when it comes to airborne viruses, adding that he witnessed it firsthand when he first visiting the country in 1961.

However, he said the new strains of the coronavirus, in particular the Delta variant, is terribly infectious and makes the situation much more dangerous.

“Even there, it is quite clear this virus is terrible. It is so infectious that you only need to be in close distance to the infected person, to be infected.

“Once the athlete has been infected, they cannot participate in the game. So there would be less competition.

“I think now there are 71 athletes found to be positive,” he said.

The delayed 2020 Olympics is scheduled to officially open on July 23.

Over 15,000 athletes, including para-athletes, from 205 countries and regions will be competing in the Tokyo Games.

Tens of thousands more coaches, backroom staff, officials and media personnel will be in Tokyo for the games.

Postponement caused expenses borne by Japan to balloon by US$2.68 billion (RM11.3 billion), from staff retention to new infection prevention measures, while an estimated 20,000 Covid-19 tests will be done daily in order to keep the pandemic at bay.